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Victory St. Boisterous

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Have you ever seen that episode of The Simpsons where Reverend Lovejoy loses the faith and Marge becomes "The Listen Lady"? At one point, while Reverend Lovejoy sits alone and depressed in the church, the stained glass windows in the church come to life and chastise him for failing to inspire his congregation. The joke is that the circumstances of each window are rather gruesome:

Stained Glass Window from The Simpsons

The one on the far left features a man standing in a boiling cauldron, the second one is a man holding his own decapitated head, and the last one is a man being eaten by a lion. This is mean to be parody; making fun of the Christian fascination with martyrs and the violence they endured. And yet anyone who has spent their childhood in Church and other related areas will see that, like a lot of parodies, this one strikes home more than you might suspect. Witness saint Adrian:

Stained Glass Window of Saint Adrian

At first it looks kinda normal and then you notice... What's the deal with that sword? Wait, where are his hands? Is that... bone? Yes, apparently St. Adrian was a martyr who had his hands cut off at the wrist. In all honesty, that Simpsons parody isn't really that much of a parody.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Victory's Spring seasonal Maibock, St. Boisterous, does not feature any such macabre imagery on its label, and the beer itself is generally more uplifting.

Victory St. Boisterous

Victory St. Boisterous - Pours a clear golden/yellow color with a finger or two of head. Aroma is dry with a sweet malt character (maybe honey?) and some floral hops as well. There's just a hint of fruitiness apparent. Taste is surprisingly hoppy at the outset, but it doesn't last through the finish, which is sweet and sticky. Surprisingly rich and full bodied for such a light colored beer. The alcohol is more prominent than expected, all throughout the taste, which I guess means that this beer is living up to its boisterous name. Overall, it's still an interesting beer that's reasonably well done. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 7/2/11.

Victory also makes a Doppelbock called St. Victorious, which I'm pretty sure I've had before, but not recently. I'll have to try that one out (it's a Winter seasonal, so I'll have to wait a while).

Shipwrecked

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This bottle sez: "Double India Pale Ale. A style of beer curiously born on the foggy shores of Father Junipero Serra's first founding mission." I can't really find any historical evidence about DIPAs being born in old Spanish Missions, but it's easy to see why a brewery that calls itself "Mission" would use Serra as their inspiration. As near as I can tell, Serra was never actually shipwrecked either, but on the other hand, it was the 18th century. I'm sure anyone traveling on the high seas back then got into some pretty hairy situations.

Mission Shipwrecked Double IPA

Mission Shipwrecked Double IPA - Pours a nice amber color with a finger of head and some lacing as I drink. The smell is a nice combo of citrusy hops and caramel. Taste is very sweet with just enough bitterness to balance it out, but otherwise not much going on here, and given that it's a double IPA, I was expecting a bit more bitterness here. As it warms, the alcohol becomes more prominent, though never overpowering or anything. It's got a medium body and a relatively smooth and slick mouthfeel. Overall a decent entry in the overcrowded DIPA field, but it's got some balance issues. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.25% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/3/11. IBU: 75. Hops: Cascade, Magnum, Centennial and CTZ.

This beer is perhaps more interesting than a "B" implies, which is similar to my reaction to Mission's Blonde (which I gave a B-). So Mission is indeed an interesting brewery that shows a lot of promise... I'll be keeping an eye out for more of their brews.

Cockeyed Cooper

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A couple years ago, brewery Uinta started a new line of high-alcohol beers under the "Crooked Line" banner. The marketing fluff on their website includes stuff like "our crooked path has taken us to some unexpected places" and "brew outside the lines". All of this sounds suspiciously like Dogfish Head's slogan: "Off centered ales for off centered people" (which I guess is not necessarily a bad thing), but when I saw a couple of these bottles in the bottle store, I was quite taken in by the artwork and also the prospect of a bourbon barrel aged barleywine (both of which are things I enjoy greatly). Judging beer by the label is sometimes the order of the day (it's not quite Belgian beer roulette, but perhaps a distant cousin), so I picked up a bottle of this. I'm glad to report that it was well worth the stretch.

I don't know who Cooper is or why he's cockeyed, but I presume it's because this is an 11.1% ABV beer. I also assume Mr. Cooper is the bearded fellow on the label that's using a bourbon barrel as a flotation device:

Uinta Cockeyed Cooper

Uinta Cockeyed Cooper - Pours a dark brown color with a minimal head. Smells very rich and boozy, with some of those bourbon-soaked oak flavors and a nicely matched hoppy character. There's a sugary aroma in the nose as well. Taste starts sweet, but then you're hit with the oak (bourbon and a little vanilla apparent), followed by some hoppy bitterness and booze. It's not overly bitter, like an IPA, but it's there, and it helps dry out the finish. The flavors linger a bit in an aftertaste. I think the oak aging really imparted a nice richness to the flavors here. Full bodied but relatively smooth, you still want to drink this slowly. Overall, it's pretty damn good. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.1% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked) Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/25/11. IBUs: 65. Bottled on 6/1/10 (Not sure how long it was aged in the barrels, but according to the site, it's at least 5 months).

When I bought this, there was another of the Crooked Line beers at the store - an American Black Ale called Labyrinth that I now very much want to try.

Double Feature: Wrong Turn Wheat

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So the Wrong Turn movies kinda suck. They're like a second-rate The Hills Have Eyes, which is, in itself, a third rate imitation of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Oh, and the second movie? It stars Henry Rollins. Somehow, all of this is ok.

Beerwise, things were a little better. I picked up both of Victory's wheat beer offerings. Thematically, wheat beers don't really match with bad horror, but being able to say "Wrong Turn Wheat" was good enough for me.

Victory Sunrise Weiss

Victory Sunrise Weissbier - Pours a cloudy golden color with lots of white head. Nose is typical hefeweizen banana and clove. Taste is also quite straightforward, but well crafted. Light bodied, crisp and refreshing. I have to admit, I was expecting a bit more out of this. A solid example of the style, but not a front-runner. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.4% bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a shaker pint glass on 6/24/11.

Victory Whirlwind Wit

Victory Whirlwind Wit - Pours a cloudy yellow color with a finger of white head. Smell is full of light spices and wheat. Taste is also quite spicy, anchored by a strong wheat flavor. Again, light bodied, crisp and refreshing. This one's more complex and interesting than the Sunrise, and it's tastier too! Ultimately not a face-melter, but very well balanced and one of my favorites in the style. It hits the spot on a hot day, or, as now, after a long day at work. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.0% bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a shaker pint glass on 6/24/11.

I tend to like German-style wheat beers more than Belgian-style varieties, but of these two Victory varieties, I have to go with the Belgian Wit.

G'Knight Gordon

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According to Oskar Blues website, Gordon Knight was a "Colorado craft beer pioneer and Vietnam vet who died fighting a 2002 wild fire outside of our Lyons hometown." By all accounts, this guy was a saint, and Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis felt honored to know the man, so he brewed a beer in Gordon's name to honor his memory. It was called, simply enough, "Gordon" (read more details about the man and the beer)

Enter Gordon Biersch, a chain of brewpubs that had their own thoughts on honoring Mr. Knight's memory: The sent Oskar Blues a cease and desist order! This was probably the correct thing to do from a legal standpoint - trademark holders must defend their trademark or else they might lose it - but I'll be damned if it isn't the dumbest PR move they could have possibly made. Of course no one knows what went on behind closed doors (neither Oskar Blues or Gordon Biersch have said anything beyond the obvious), but it sure seems like there could have been a better way to handle this sort of thing. It's one thing when two brewers have conflicting interests (though even then, better brewers seem to be able to work things out well enough), but in the case of a beer dedicated to all-American hero Gordon Knight, it just seems silly.

Fortunately, the creative folks at Oskar Blues came up with a clever solution: their new name for the brew is G'Knight. I hate to admit it, but it's almost an improvement. This was all happening at the beginning of the year, and lucky me, I had picked up a couple 4 packs of the beer that still had the Gordon branding:

Oskar Blues Gordon

Oskar Blues Gordon - Interestingly, the can calls this an "Imperial Red" ale, while Beer Advocate calls it a Double IPA. After tasting it, I have to say that it certainly feels a lot like something from the IPA family, but then again, I don't know much about Reds... Well, whatever the classification, onto the beer itself: Pours a dark amber color with a couple fingers of head that leave lacing as I drink. Smells strongly of citrus and pine, very sweet. There could be what beer nerds call "resin" in the aroma as well. It's a really nice aroma. Taste is very sweet as well, with a well matched bitterness in the finish. It's a very smooth drink. Well carbonated, but as it says on the can, it's "sticky". Not sure if that's the alcohol or residual sugars (or both), but it actually makes for quite an interesting beer. Overall, this might actually be my favorite Oskar Blues beer yet... A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.7% ABV canned (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/19/11. 60 IBUs.

Oskar Blues continues to impress. I've only had a few of their beers, but they're all excellent examples of whatever style they're tackling. Next up, the monster stout, Ten Fidy (I've already had a few of these, and they're great). Actually, I forgot until now, but I've mentioned both Gordon and Ten Fidy before in a Beer Club post. In any case, here's to Gordon Knight. I wish every beer had a story as noble as his... (hat tip to the Aleheads for the whole legal history background)

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp

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Before tonight, I have a vague inkling of what Sierra Nevada Beer Camp was - a sorta Willy Wonka-esque contest with the prize being a tour of their brewery, along with a chance to brew your own beer (collaborating with the other winners and the Sierra Nevada staff). Apparently you win by entering a creative video explaining why Sierra Nevada should pick you to attend - so I would never win! And until now, I was pretty sure I'd never actually get to taste any of these beers either, but imagine my luck: on the same night I got my hands on Pliny the Elder, I spied several Beer Camp beers on tap. Most excellent:

Sierra Nevada Exportation

Sierra Nevada ExPortation - So Beer Camp #25 was a Baltic Porter style beer brewed in honor of Philly Beer week by some Philly beer geeks who won a spot a Beer Camp. It was called Philadelphia ExPorter. Now I'm not sure what genius (not being sarcastic here, whoever had this idea is genius) is responsible, but someone had a brilliant idea: Hey, let's take this Baltic Porter over to Russian River and have them age it in some Pinot Noir barrels. Fuck. Yes. It pours a nice opaque black color with a finger of tan head. The smell is outright twangy. The funk almost, but not quite, overwhelms the typical roasty aromas. In other words, it's fantastic. The taste has a similar profile: funky sourness almost, but not quite, overwhelming roasty Porter flavors. Relatively full bodied, but a smooth and easy to drink mouthfeel. The thing that's most amazing here is that, well, I'm not a huge fan of porters, nor have I truly acquired a taste for sour beers. And yet, this beer is almost perfect for me. It's like the two styles cancel out the things I don't like, and amplify the things I do. Amazing. And keep in mind that I had just drank a glass of Pliny the Elder, so the bar was set pretty high here. The only bad thing about this beer is that I will most likely never get the chance to drink it again (unless I head back over to that bar in the next couple days - certainly a possibility). A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV on tap. Drank out of a pint glass on 6/23/11.


Sierra Nevada Hop Smack

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp #48: Hop Smack - This one has a less clear provenance. It's not even listed on the Beer Camp site, nor does it appear on Beer Advocate. I did find the RateBeer page, but it only has one review! Basically, it's one of them American Black Ales (or whatever the hell you call them)... actually, it said it was a Double American Black Ale. My experience with the style is limited, but since ExPortation was so awesome, and since I was unlikely to ever even see this again, I gave it a shot. It pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a finger of head. Smells surprisingly hoppy - almost no roastiness getting through to the nose. The taste is almost wholly like a DIPA. Sweet, hoppy, and bitter. At first, no roastiness at all was apparent - if you blindfolded me and made me taste, I probably would not have guessed that it was an American black ale. As it warmed up and I got to the bottom of the glass, I got the faintest hint of roastiness out of the beer, but it wasn't much. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not a terrible beer or anything, it just doesn't seem like a particularly good take on the style. That, or my palate was obliterated by the likes of Pliny and ExPortation (both very strongly flavored beers). I'll give it a B-, as I was disappointed, but I suppose others might find more to like.

Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass on 6/23/11.

There was another Beer Camp beer on tap, but it seemed like a plain old Pale Ale. Don't get me wrong, I would have tried it, but after having a DIPA, a strong sour beer, and a Double ABA, I think that would have paled in comparison (pun intended!)

Russian River Pliny the Elder

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Oh, this bar looks pretty coo... holy shit, Pliny the Elder, gimme, gimme, gimme!*

Russian River Pliny the Elder

Russian River Pliny the Elder - Named after the famed "Roman naturalist, scholar, historian, traveler, officer, and writer", Pliny the Elder was one of the folks responsible for initially classifying and documenting hops. The beer itself is somewhat legendary. It's been at or near the top of Beer Advocate's Top 100 Beers on Planet Earth list for a while now (last year it was at #1, right now it's at #3). It's also somewhat rare, which may be part of why it's always ranked so high - a hard to find beer always tastes better once you find it! I've been keeping my eye out for some for a while now, and have had a couple of near misses before this, so when I actually got myself a glass tonight, I was quite pleased.

Pours a dark golden orange color, mostly clear, with a finger of perfect white head. Aroma is extremely hoppy and quite complex. Full of citrus and some pine, with a nice boozy, malty sweetness in the nose. I could hardly wait for the head to subside, so my first sip got some of that double IPA feel, but with a creamy head texture - a very good first impression. The taste starts off nice and sweet, with some citrus and pine, then you get hit with a wave of bitterness that intensifies as you approach the finish. Sometimes I feel like a lot of DIPAs overcompensate with massive amounts of malt, actually leading to less bitterness (despite the higher amount of hops/IBUs,etc...), but not Pliny. This isn't to say that it's overwhelmingly bitter or anything - it's actually just perfectly balanced. Every component sings. Mouthfeel is also extremely smooth (I'd say "velvety" if I knew what velvet tasted like) and it goes down incredibly easy. I could drink these all night, which usually isn't the case for beers this big.

I really suck at picking favorites and whatnot, so while I don't really know if this beer deserves the title of "The Best Beer on Planet Earth", it certainly deserves to be in that top 100 list and, more importantly, it wasn't a letdown. All too often, I've tried a beer from the BA top 100 and wondered what all the fuss was about. Of course, this may have lowered my expectations somewhat for this beer, but I was still hoping for a lot. In any case, I can see why everyone loves this beer. If you ever get a chance, and if you like IPAs, you must try one. It's a delicious and complex beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a, what would you call that, a goblet?

Now, of course, my focus shifts to finding me some of Pliny the Elder's rarer sibling, Pliny the Younger. I expect that to be a much more difficult task - apparently only a handful of kegs make their way to the East Coast every year. I'm not complaining - most areas are not fortunate enough to get any of that beer, and Philly seems to always get at least some (even if you have to wait in line for hours just to get a few ounces).

* Ok, so I was actually told ahead of time that the bar had Pliny on tap, but still. I've been told this before and still missed out on some Pliny goodness (this stuff don't last long). Thanks to friend and fellow beer lover Mike for the tipoff!

Double Wit

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It's summer! On a recent beer run, I stocked up on various wheat beers and whatnot, and when I saw this particular beer, I was intrigued. Most wheat beers tend to be relatively light, crisp and refreshing. As such, they tend to be somewhat low in alcohol and a little thin in terms of body (but, you know, in a good way). So the concept of a souped-up Belgian-style wit beer sounded intriguing to me.

Great Divide Double Wit

Great Divide Double Wit - Pours a cloudy gold color with a finger of bubbly white head. Aroma is fruity and spicy. It's definitely a unique aroma, not like anything I can think of, though there similarities. The taste starts off very sweet and bready, with some spiciness thrown in there (apparently coriander and orange peel). There's some fruitiness apparent as well, but I can't quite pick out the specific flavors. The finish is just a bit sticky with booze - the alcohol is noticeable and makes for something of a weird aftertaste. The body is strange. It seems to start out full bodied, but then it thins considerably by the finish. This is something I associate with wheat beers, but it's not usually this prominent (no doubt a result of the high alcohol) and it doesn't entirely work. I can't quite decide how much I like it. It's certainly an interesting brew, but it's poorly balanced and definitely not one of my favorites. I'll give it a B-.

Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/10/11.

Strangely, Great Divide has nothing about this beer on their website. Also, I have no idea why there is a two headed... monster? Kid? on the label (presumably a play on the "double" nature of the beer, but still), and yet, I rather like it and want to watch a movie documenting its rampaging exploits. Unfortunately, you can't drink labels.

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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